Fire & Ice! Melrose Arch appoints new Executive Chef

When it comes to food and wine it’s all about the perfect pairing, which can also be said about the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Melrose Arch and their new Executive Chef Matthew Wright: both are young at heart, on-trend and not scared to serve up novel, quirky and of course entirely delicious fare…

Matthew Wright

Matthew Wright

Hailed by Jo’burg Style Magazine as one of the city’s ‘hot young chefs on the rise’, Matthew, who’s been in his new position since 1 April, is set to take the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Melrose Arch to the next level.

“I’m really excited to be part of the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! experience where it’s all about being edgy and innovative and, importantly, being South African. I’m all about keeping it local and supporting our own farmers as far as possible by using locally grown ingredients,” says Matthew. “We’re very fortunate to have the quality produce we do, although we are starting to feel the full effects of the drought now which obviously means we have to be more creative. But that doesn’t necessarily mean using imported goods – I’d rather look at using sweet potatoes instead of potatoes for example – it’s still keeping it local, it’s cheaper and it’s healthier.”

Born and bred in Johannesburg, Matthew’s experience can best be described as eclectic. Having recently returned from a stint in the UAE where he worked as Junior Executive Sous Chef at the Grand Hyatt Muscat in Oman, he also worked overseas during his practical work component while studying at the Prue Leith College of Food and Wine – first at the One&Only Hotel in Le Saint Gerna, Mauritius and later at the Labourdonnais Waterfront Hotel in Port Louis.

After graduating in 2005, Matthew started his professional life as a private chef for a family in Johannesburg before trying his hand in an Italian kitchen at Morningside’s Pomodoro Ristorante as Senior Sous Chef. He then spent two-and-a-half years honing his skill as Head Chef at Coobs in Parkhurst, before being lured by the bright lights of UAE where, in addition to working at the Hyatt, he also had the opportunity to cook privately for a Sheik.

“It goes without saying that international experience is invaluable in this profession, but you can’t underestimate the degree to which the local food scene is on par with the rest of the world and South Africa is as good a place to be as any with regards to food culture,” says Matthew.

In terms of personal style, Matthew says he likes rustic dishes that “bring a flood of old memories, and new ones too”, and he bases his cooking philosophy on respecting his ingredients. “It’s the best advice I was ever given. It’s something I learnt when I worked in a butchery and it taught me not to waste one single bit,” he says. 

At home Matthew likes nothing better than good old mac and cheese – with lashings of bacon – and his wife’s lamb pasta, and when eating out he’ll try anything on the menu that sounds strange or interesting – his aim is to taste everything at least once! As for his favourite food destination, Cape Town wins hands down thanks to the ever-interesting crop of new restaurants and food concepts popping up in the city.

So what can guests expect with Matthew in the kitchen? “I will obviously remain true to the enormously successful formula that’s made the brand what it is, and hopefully the addition of my experience and skill can only add to it. The hotel is loved for being a fun, slightly quirky environment that offers something different to other establishments and, while I’m not giving everything away just yet, what I will say is that I’m planning to bring a lot more of that.”

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]tourismedition.com

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